Junius, “The Indifferent” (E. Armand)

In some autobiographical reflections published in l’Unique, E. Armand noted that late in 1897, he wrote “under the signature Franck or Junius or the two together” some articles for Sébastien Faure’s anarchist newspaper Le Libertaire. When I went in search of the writings, I found nothing earlier than February 1898, but I did find three articles signed “Junius” and three poems signed with some variation of “Frank J.” I’ve transcribed all six and am comparing the poems to similar work signed by Armand. I’ll have more to say about all of this is a future installment of the “Rambles in the Fields of Anarchist Individualism.” But the first of the Junius articles, “Indifférents,” felt topical enough today, as we’re watching the world react—and not react—to the actions of federal forces in Portland, that I didn’t feel like waiting to share it.

Related links:

The Indifferent

I was talking the other day with fellow workers, good people who sweat blood and water six and a half days a week to earn the few francs that will allow them and their families to live. We were talking about everything that presently excites what we are accustomed to call public opinion. We spoke of the suicides with which the daily papers have recently entertained their readers. The we came to social inequalities, miseries, the sufferings of humanity…

One fact struck me. In general, faced with the evil that eats away at our old society, with the awful selfishness that sows death and despair, my interlocutors seemed to be very indifferent as to the remedy. And yet they too were proletarians; they too complained about long, long days at work! They too complained about being at the mercy of the first foreman to come and having to comply with his requirements …. But that was it! The ideas of the anarchists, of human solidarity, left them cold and indifferent.

Indifferent!

That is what kills us, stops us, shackles us. Indifference, that other form of egoism, is the stumbling block. It is the obstacle that blocks the path to all social or moral progress, to every attempt at liberation, to every revolution!

Indifference, it is that morbid state that some writers of this century have called j’menfoutisme. [1] As long as I enjoy relative well-being, what are the others to me? If I have my three or four or ten francs assured each day, what to me are the unfortunate old men the poor women responsible for families to whom the Public Assistance allots forty sous per month? Provided that I do not die of hunger, what should I care about those who succumb in that bitter struggle for life!

Indifference is the accomplice of coups d’état, reactions and all sorts of actions behind closed doors. It is with its aid that the people are slaughtered, that those who demand justice are put to the sword, that strikers are shot.

Indifference and crime go hand in hand. There is as much wrongdoing, when all is said and done, in seeing an innocent butchered without defending them as in slaughtering them yourself.

Oh! Let us not remain indifferent! At this moment, when the stinking tide of clericalism rises, threatening to choke beneath its heavy, impure waves the few voices that are still heard in favor of the truth, at this moment, I say, let us raise our head … Let us raise them high in the crowd that surrounds us. Let us not keep our convictions to ourselves. On the contrary, let us spread them, broadcast them! Let us not be tongue-tied silent protesters, but protesters trembling with indignation and anger. Yes, we are the eternal protesters against injustice, whatever it is and wherever it comes from! Yes, we are those, the eternal protesters against corruption, against infamy, against inequality, against servitude! But let us not be content to protest silently! Let our comrades in work or study hear our protest!

And this is how they will be won over. And this is how the starving, the prostituted, the cannon-fodder will realize that they, the majority, are hoodwinked by a tiny minority. They will understand it and the most obtuse intellects will be illuminated……

Soon then will come the dawn of a new world where truth and liberty will reign, because selfishness and its principal causes will have been banished. This, while our old inquisitorial and medieval society will pass through its last convulsions.

Hasten, comrades, the coming of that shining dawn! For it is up to you to do it. Win to our cause all those dazzled by the tawdry veneer of this civilization; open their eyes and they will see as you do. And there number will constantly increase until, an irresistible torrent, nothing can stop them any longer.

That is why we join those who say: Death to indifference! Down with half-heartedness! Let us act! Let us act!! Let us act!!!

Junius.

[1] Je m’en fous means “I couldn’t care less” or “I don’t give a shit.”

 


Junius, “Indifférents,” Le Libertaire 4 no. 116 (6 Février 1898): 1.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

 

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2467 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.